Garcia fights back after collapse to follow Ballesteros

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The Independent Online

Sergio Garcia survived an astonishing loss of momentum before claiming his first professional victory on home soil in the Spanish Open yesterday. Garcia saw a seven-shot lead cut to just one with five holes to play before recording a final round of 73 and a four-shot victory over the Italian Emanuele Canonica.

Greg Owen, of Britain, was third for the second tournament in succession. The local amateur sensation Rafael Cabrera was joint fourth alongside the Swede Carl Pettersson, the 17-year-old from Las Palmas equalling the best performance by an amateur on the European Tour. Pettersson had been nine behind Garcia after two holes, but, amazingly, cut the gap to just one shot after a birdie on the 14th before late bogeys put an end to his chances.

Garcia's 13-under-par total of 275 brought him his fourth European Tour title, the £176,000 first prize taking his earnings to more than £2m in just 40 European Tour events. The 22-year-old, who won the Catalonian Open while still an amateur in 1997, also became the first Spaniard to win the national open title since Seve Ballesteros in 1995 – in a tournament promoted by Ballesteros's company, Amen Corner.

Garcia began the day five shots clear and looked to have removed any lingering doubts about the outcome in the space of two holes. A birdie at the first was followed by an eagle at the par-five second to extend his lead to seven shots over Canonica, and nine over Pettersson.

Garcia dropped shots at the fourth and seventh and had a double-bogey on the 12th, when he drove out of bounds for the second time this week, raising the possibility of a remarkable change of leadership. Another bogey on the 13th, coupled with Pettersson's fifth birdie of the day on the 14th in the match behind, meant that Garcia's lead was just one shot.

Garcia was able to relax, however, when he had a birdie at the 14th and saw Pettersson take a double-bogey six on the 15th. Pettersson eventually finished with an aggregate of 281 to share fourth place with Cabrera, the amateur born and bred here on Gran Canaria, who was Garcia's playing partner yesterday.

In North Carolina, Rocco Mediate, the highest-ranked player in the field, put himself in position to win his first USPGA Tour event in nearly 21 months. Mediate had birdies at the first three holes in a third-round six-under-par 66 to open a two-shot lead over Mark Calcavecchia in the Greater Greensboro Classic.

Ranked 17th in the world, Mediate was on 201, 15 under par, at the Forest Oaks Country Club as he chased his fifth career victory and first title since the Buick Open in August 2000.

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